Wednesday, 29 May 2013. PDF Print E-mail
"The agreement will make Serbs stronger"
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Ivan MrkicFollowing his visit to the EU, the Foreign Minister spoke about the implementation of the Brussels agreement. We are doing our utmost in order to have the people of Kosovo and Metohija keep our documents. I'm confident that we will be granted the date for starting negotiations with the EU. Europe understands our strategic partnership with Russia.

Never has Serbia been praised so much by the European Union, as it is now. This is the strongest impression expressed by Serbian Foreign Minister Ivan Mrkić, after his official visit to Brussels. He attended the working dinner of ministers of EU member and candidate countries, hosted by Lady Catherine Ashton. He said for the "Novosti" daily, that he had at least a dozen separate talks and agreed on many issues with his counterparts, as the climate was entirely in the spirit of cooperation. 

What are the key messages you conveyed to your EU colleagues?
- I explained to them the historical reasons which absolutely prevent us from seeing the problem in the most rational way, because it is a question of the most obvious open secession and seizure of territory. The vast majority of Serbs perceives it only in this way.

Has there been understanding for the positions of Serbia?
- None of the participants questioned anything of what I said. They were taking the floor one after the other, praising the Serbian leadership for what they have done so far. They all spoke most highly of us. This is no diplomatic phrase, it was truly like that. I never participated in an event at which so much praise and so many compliments were addressed to my country.

What was the reaction to the letter of our Government explicitly stating that we interpret the agreement as a status-neutral?
- Some might have thought that there would be problems as to how we formulated the acceptance of the implementation plan. However, that did not happen. Everyone proceeds from the fact that the government has acted very wisely and skillfully. They understand our best efforts to make the protection of Serbs in KiM our utmost priority.

Will Europe comply with the request that Kosovo Serbs retain our citizenship and personal documents and, in this way, to take part in the local elections this fall?
- We are doing everything towards that end. Maximum effort was made and we are fully committed to this matter. We hope that we will make it a reality. Finally, by the time our people in KiM become fully aware that this agreement ensures their present and especially their future, when they realize that this agreement provides for the protection and strengthening of their position in KiM, and then everything will become easier. But this will take some time and that is normal. The awareness of people cannot be changed by decree or command.

Will we be granted the date in June?
- As a citizen, I can say on my own behalf that I am absolutely sure that we will. However, I am not the one to decide, so it may be inappropriate for me to herald such news. I can only share my personal impression. No one has ever questioned anything when it comes to Serbia. They all advocated that Serbia should join the European family and emphasized that there can be no EU without the Balkans and Serbia as the central country in the region.

What else are we expected to do by June and the passing of the decision by the European Council? Will there be any hidden conditions?
- There are neither new conditions nor "arm-twisting".

Which specific points of the implementation plan do we have to fulfill?
- I told my interlocutors frankly that no one can expect us to do everything at once. If anyone wishes that a specific part of the plan be implemented shortly, that would be impossible. We can not guarantee that. No one can guarantee that. We are simply continuing to work on what we have agreed. We fully respect every letter of the agreement. Therefore, we expect the other side to do likewise. The pace of the implementation of what has been agreed is in direct proportion to the way Pristina will act. Belgrade has already proved to be a very solid negotiator, which delivers on the agreed.

You recently visited Russia. What does strategic partnership with Moscow mean to us?
- It means a lot. Everyone is trying to have good relations with Russia. And our relations are special. We confirmed this by signing this very important agreement. Presidents Nikolic and Putin had a lengthy discussion in a way that old acquaintances and great friends talk without having the need to be superfluous. We have a very fruitful dialogue with Moscow and excellent relations. Russia has granted us preferential treatment, particularly in the economic area. There is no need to say how much that means in terms of energy. In spite of its size and lack of impressive economic potential, Serbia has extremely good relations with Russia.

And what about the political area? Is Russia helping us enough?
- We have excellent relations in this area as well. Would we have been able to conduct such negotiations on Kosovo and Metohija, had there been no Russian support?

Can we have our cake and eat it too: to be close with Russia, and to join the EU?
- This is a stereotype view of life and politics. It is not to be compared but, in order to be convincing, let us, for example, take the US which has very good relations with China, which is incomparable. They also have good relations with Russia, Germany, Great Britain...Everyone proceeds from their own interest and that is how we look upon building our own future. We are developing our relations with those countries with which we can achieve our interests, to the general benefit and satisfaction of both sides.

Does Europe understand that?
- Of course. The majority of European countries also act in this way, provided that they have an opportunity.

With which countries of the region have we established best relations?
- With all of them! I would not single out any country. They are all our neighbors. It is natural that we wish to have best possible relations with all of them. We are quite sincere in doing so, without hesitation. And they are aware of it.

Which messages did Catherine Ashton convey to you?
- We spoke in a very sincere and friendly manner. Catherine Ashton is grateful for everything that the Serbian Government has done and did not hide it in any way. At the meeting, she spoke with greatest respect about our president, prime minister and government members who have particularly contributed to the favorable development of the negotiations.